• Claribel Ortega

Publishing Kinda Ruined My Health

Updated: May 17, 2019


(CW for weight/eating)


Picture this - you're sitting in front of your laptop with a major assignment or project due. It's midnight. You're tired, maybe a little loopy but you just have to get through a few more nights like this. There are snacks, of course. And coffee. Sometimes there's wine because you've been at this, every night, for oh...a week now? What is time anyway?! Now, imagine this is your life every day. Imagine the deadlines and the writing and the assignments never end and you're always finishing something and telling yourself, "if I can just get through this one thing" you'll get to rest. But you don't get to rest. At least I never did because for a while my sense of self worth was so entangled with my writing that to stop writing meant I was lost. To stop writing meant I was worthless. Not to mention, my financial well being and upward mobility in this world is almost completely reliant on not just my books but my book related side hustles.


Us authors hear pretty often, especially lately, that publishing only loves shiny new things. Debuts are showered with attention but if you don't become a breakout of your debut class you're forgotten. I haven't even debuted yet and I've heard this multiple times from people who feel left behind, underestimated, underutilized. As a brown woman, and as the daughter of immigrants, this instinct kicked in for me (and many of my similarly non-white/immigrant, second gen friends) that I needed to work my fingers to the bone right now, while eyes are still on me and I'm not Stale Author McGee. This sense of urgency develops where you need to sell things and make your mark before it's too late. Before people forget about you. Sometimes, despite not having even one book out, I already feel like nobody cares about what I have to say. So my solution is to shout loudly and often and outwork, out tweet, out write everyone within a ten mile radius because DAMN IT writing is my way out of having nothing. But as the popular shitpost meme says, "At what cost?"


I'll tell you at what cost: my whole god damn sanity and well being. In the past year or so, I've been waking up sore. FROM SLEEPING. It's not my mattress, it's my body. I'm always in pain, and always anxious. Chest pains from anxiety are the norm. Gone are the days of "omgosh am I dying?" and now I'm just like, "Forkin anxiety, stupid publishing, dumb dumb career choice!" I've gained a solid 30, almost 40 pounds which has lead to all sorts of knee pain, breathing issues, you name it. I blame the writing snacks but also, it's definitely stress hormones. CONSTANT STRESS HORMONES. I don't even know if stress hormones are an actual thing but if they weren't before, my body invented them. You're welcome science. I spent almost an entire year working over twelve hours a day, mostly sitting somewhere or even laying down but definitely not at a walking desk or anything remotely health-conscious. At every writing session there was at least three of the following:


Coffee (2 cup minimum)

Cheese Puffs

Wine

Cheese (assorted)

Tears

Beer

Lemon cookies (from my mom these don't count)

SADNESS

hot chocolate


Add a plentiful dose of toxic gossip, rejection and plain old writing frustrations and you end up like me: a depressed, still kinda broke, unhealthy, husk of anxiety. It's really no secret to anyone who's been at this for more than a few months that publishing can be super bad for your health. Things like querying and submission where you're faced with looming rejection every day (is something bad happening? Maybe! It's a mystery! But it probably will and manifest right to your email!) are an anxious person's worst nightmare. Financial freedom is almost impossible, so full time jobs or waiting for your super old and rich husband to die are the only options for many of us. There's a lot of work and a lot of stress and sometimes very little reward and honestly if I did not love writing I'm not sure how I'd survive it. I'm also incredibly lucky and have a lot of the things authors work years for but to paraphrase Tati Westbrook in her now famous BYE SISTER video, "just because someone next to you is in a full body cast, it doesn't mean your arm cast doesn't hurt."




The struggles we all go through, regardless of where we are in our career, are hard. Being in this industry is so challenging and I've focused so so much on my career I forgot that I'm a human who needs water and sleep and to be active once in a while and to not exist solely on nuggets and wine. So I woke up one morning, late because everything hurts, and I decided I'd had enough. I took a short break from Twitter (which I am still on) I deleted slack and other messaging apps from my phone to keep as much gossip/drama away from me as possible. I made sure I made it to my therapy appointments and I think for me what's been helping the most, is the gym.


I'm not one of those people who thinks the gym/losing weight is the answer to all your problems, in fact I am fully supportive of body positive movements and loving yourself as you are. But I can't walk without my knees sounding like a packet of Pop Rocks, sis. It's time for me to change something. Going to the gym has helped me let out my anger and frustration in a way that doesn't hurt me further (like overeating and getting sick.) I'm on my fourth week of going to the gym consistently (it began with 2X a week and now I'm doing 3 to 4 times a week.) I'm walking to get my lunch, eating foods that make me feel good and are delicious (even tho I'm in NO WAY perfect there, shout out to the combos I left in my friends purse last weekend) and just trying to make changes that will help me manage my depression that feel right for me. I don't want to rely on book stuff anymore because that's not guaranteed. And I need to have goals and happiness tied to things that aren't publishing related. This is my first step.



I am going to track my health journey here and eventually on YouTube. I don't know what to call the series so if you guys have any suggestions, let me know. I hope sharing my journey and sharing how a creative life can lead to lots of not great things if you're not careful can help some people who are experiencing similar situations. My ultimate goal is to reach my health related targets by my book launch next April. So JOIN ME on what's sure to be a fun, bumpy and maybe hilarious ride to take my mental and physical health back from publishing's glamorous claws!


And we've come full giph-circle.


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designed and illustrated by danika corrall